Can we just shoot the thieving bastards?
I was having breakfast on a rather nice train called Premier Classe last week, basking in the luxury of a 25 hour chilling-out journey from Johannesburg to Cape Town at a quarter of the price of the Blue Train but with three quarters of the luxury, when it was announced that due to cable theft we would have to get off the train at Touws River and travel the remaining 200km to Cape Town by bus.
On my way back to my compartment I heard a fellow passenger mutter something about shooting the thieving bastards only to have his companion say: “Ag shame man, those people are probably starving...if you were starving don’t tell me you wouldn’t steal stuff?”
I sat down in my compartment and considered those two points of view.
Yes, on one hand, petty crime was getting completely out of hand and while the consequence of crime would mean starving people getting to eat something, all sorts of other consequences would cause a lot of innocent people to starve instead.
Like the staff of that train who would lose their jobs if passengers had to be continually bussed to their destinations because of cable theft.
As we rolled into Touws Riiver and came to a stop just outside the station, opposite the town graveyard on one side and absolutely nothing on the other, I came to the conclusion that if we wished to be called civilised we could not simply go around shooting people for stealing things.
On the other hand, the excuse that petty crime should be tolerated because people are starving is just as stupid because in places like India where poverty is on a far bigger scale than in South Africa, petty crime is a lot lower.
Anyway, it would be nuts to go down the road of condoning crime on the basis of the necessity to feed starving people because just where would one draw the line for heaven’s sake?
Someone without bread who feels that it is OK to get away with swiping a loaf or two would more than likely feel the same way about justifying the theft of a BMW because he had no transport.
But, getting back to copper cable, I saw a statistic a while back that the Western Cape exports roughly 250 000 tons of copper a year. Which to me is quite remarkable for a province that doesn’t actually produce any copper.
Now, on the basis that the police cannot keep an eye on every metre of electric wire in the country and that so far, raiding scrap metal dealers has not dissuaded thieves from plying their trade, the only possible way to stop this is to put a ban on the sale or trade in second hand copper wire.
Then make the companies that imported, sold or made that copper wire in the first place, responsible for storing the second hand stuff which could then be exported with the proceeds going to charities that feed hungry people.
After all, this is what companies do in Europe with second hand cars and all sorts of other consumer and industrial products.
“You make it, you sell it, you take it back and you recycle it.”
And if any company refuses to play the game well, then I suppose one could just shoot the bastards.
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